Out on Bond

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No 'get out of jail free' cards at the Taylor County Detention Center

By Calen McKinney

It's 6 p.m. and you've just broken the law. The police take you directly to jail. There's no passing go or collecting $200.

You take a breathalyzer test to see if you have been drinking. The police ask a bunch of questions.

You're searched by a member of the jail's staff to see exactly what you have in your pockets.

Jail staff ask numerous questions about your medical and other history.

Your fingerprints are taken and you wait to be placed in a holding cell. They say you will have to shower and be outfitted in an orange and white striped jumpsuit if you can't make bond.

All you want to do is go home.

So what's next? What will it take for you to get to sleep in your own bed tonight?

You're in luck. A pretrial officer is still here and can evaluate you. The officer calls a judge, who sets your bond at 10 percent of $10,000.

A family member, armed with $1,000 in cash, arrives shortly to post your bond.

You are free ... at least for the night.

The $1,000, however, symbolizes your promise to make your court appearances. If you don't show, your family member could lose that money.

A bond serves as a way for the defendant to pay a set amount of money to jail or clerk's office staff in exchange for his or her release from jail or as a way to not go in the first place.

The money serves as a defendant's promise that he or she will appear in court to answer the allegations against them.

There are several different types of bonds, Taylor County Jailer Rick Benningfield says, with the most common types being cash bonds, unsecured bonds and partially secured bonds. Taylor Circuit Clerk Rodney Burress says those accused of crimes can also be released on their own recognizance, with the posting of a property bond or with a surety bond.

Benningfield said a bond should be paid in the county in which the crime was allegedly committed, which, for Taylor County, would be at the jail or circuit clerk's office.

He said, however, that he would not tell jail employees to turn away a bond from another county. Doing that, he said, just makes paperwork a bit more difficult.

Benningfield said anyone may post a bond, unless it is a surety bond and the judge has selected a specific person to post it.

Another type of bond, a pay or stay bond, Benningfield said, is set in an arrest warrant when a person has failed to pay a court ordered fee, like court costs or some type of fine. He said pay or stay bonds may simply be paid in full or a person can stay so many days in jail to receive credit for the bond.

For example, he said, if a defendant is arrested on a $300 or 30-day pay or stay warrant, he or she may pay the $300 or can serve 30 days in jail. He said $10 in credit is given for each day a person serves.

However, Benningfield said, inmates are charged a $30 booking fee and $15 for each day they serve in jail.

Therefore, he said, an inmate may spend 30 days in jail and receive credit for all of the $300 he or she owes, but will ultimately owe an additional $480 for his or her stay and booking fee at the Taylor County Detention Center.

It is to a defendant's advantage to simply pay the amount of a pay or stay bond, Benningfield said.

The Taylor County Detention Center charges a $5 fee per bond, Benningfield said, for doing the paperwork. That fee is due when bond is posted, he said, and goes directly to the jail.

He said the jail only accepts cash and can only accept bonds up to $9,999. Any bond higher than that amount, he said, has to be posted at the clerk's office.

Burress said those arrested on an a warrant already have a bond set, based on the degree of the charge against them.

Those arrested by a law enforcement officer on a citation have to go through a much different process to receive bond, he said.

In this situation, Burress said, a pretrial officer is called to evaluate the person accused. He said the pretrial officer asks various questions about a person's criminal history, personal information and job. The officer uses a point system, he said, the results of which are shared with a judge, along with the circumstances of the arrest. The judge will then decide the amount and type of bond that is set.

Burress said a person's criminal history and the severity of the alleged crime contribute to the amount of a bond. Also important, he said, is if the accused lives or works in the local area. Those from out of town, Burress said, could be considered a flight risk, which may result in a higher bond.

A judge can also choose not to set a bond, Benningfield said, and the defendant will not be released.

Burress' office is in charge of processing and returning bonds once a case has been completed. For that, he said, the office charges a $25 bond fee, which is due at the time the bond is posted. If not paid, he said, that fee is ordered to be paid at the conclusion of the case, along with any court fees or fines.

If a person posts a bond and does not appear for court, Burress said, a bench warrant is issued, which contains yet another bond. A bond forfeiture hearing is then scheduled, he said, and the surety is notified that his or her bond may be forfeited to the state if the person they posted bond for does not appear in court. Locally, he said, bonds are not often forfeited.

If a person is found not guilty of the accusations against them, or the charges are dismissed, Burress said, he or she will receive all of their bond money back.

If a person enters a guilty plea to a charge, or is found guilty by a jury, Burress said, he or she will also receive all of their bond back - if it was a full cash bond. Those who post a partially secured bond and plead or are found guilty will receive their bond back, minus 10 percent, which is kept by the state.

u Staff Writer Calen McKinney can be reached at 465-8111 Ext. 235 or by e-mail at reporter@cknj.com. Comment on this story at www.cknj.com.

Types of bonds

Cash bond - a specific amount of money required to be posted before a defendant can be released from law enforcement custody.

Unsecured bond - a monetary amount, such as $1,000, that the person who signs the bond will pay if the accused fails to come to court. This type of bond does not require any upfront money.

Partially secured bond or 10 percent bond - a monetary value that the accused must pay before being released, such as $20,000, but only a percentage of that amount, typically 10 percent, has to be posted before the accused can be released.

Released on a person's own recognizance - a promise that the accused will be at his or her court appearances.

Property bonds - allowing a defendant to use a piece of property as collateral for his or her release from jail.

Surety bond - when a judge requires a specific person to sign for another person's release. No money is required, though an amount is listed on the bond, which the surety will be responsible for if the accused does not attend court.